Second doses of the vaccine are coming soon. The Rice community should be prepared.
Last month, over 800 members of the Rice community received a surprise first dose of the Moderna vaccine, which was provided by the Harris County Public Health Department after a power outage caused vaccines to unexpectedly defrost. Individuals who were vaccinated on campus are slated to receive their second dose on March 22. It is imperative that students and administration adequately prepare for hundreds of Rice community members to receive their second doses in the coming weeks.
The second dose of the Moderna vaccine has been linked to fever, fatigue, headache, and chills, with some research reporting that 17 percent of people between the ages of 18 and 64 developed fever after their second dose. We can reasonably expect that a significant proportion of the Rice community will be out of commission in the days immediately following March 22, which falls on a Monday — likely impacting students’ academic performance for at least part of the week.
While this second dose, along with the Feb. 15 vaccination, might be one of the first times that the vaccine impacts so many Rice community members at once, it most likely won’t be the last. After Monday’s vaccine update email from Kevin Kirby, the chair of the Crisis Management Team, it seems as though Rice is slowly making progress toward being able to vaccinate community members once the state deems us eligible for vaccines. As the semester passes and more students get the vaccine, more of us may be impacted by the side effects of inoculation.
Keeping this in mind, professors should factor vaccinations into their class’s sick policy. We ask for professors to treat side effects of the vaccine like a normal sickness in any other year, by allowing increased flexibility for due dates and assignments in the days following students’ receipt of the second dose.
Although many members of the Rice community were able to get their first dose, many weren’t — a fact students who have received their vaccine must remain cognizant of. The members of the Rice community who were lucky enough to receive the vaccine should, in addition to planning and preparing for possible symptoms after their second dose, remember that they will take around two weeks to develop immunity to the virus. Even after those two weeks, vaccine effectiveness has been found to sit at roughly 92.1 percent, and research is still ongoing regarding virus transmissibility post-vaccine, especially as new variants make their way around.
As The Atlantic’s Rachel Gutman wrote in her article on navigating the era in which Americans are only semi-vaccinated: “When deciding what you can and can’t do [as a vaccinated individual], you should think less about your own vaccination status, and more about whether your neighbors, family, grocery clerks, delivery drivers, and friends are still vulnerable to the virus.” For the Rice community, this also includes our classmates, faculty, and staff. According to Gutman’s interviews with medical experts, the jury is still out on whether those individuals pose a serious risk of transmission to non-vaccinated people, so everyone at Rice should continue to be careful.
According to guidelines released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fully vaccinated individuals can gather indoors unmasked with one another, but should still mask in public, avoid larger gatherings, delay travel, and continue to monitor themselves for symptoms of COVID-19. Vaccinated Rice students should review these guidelines carefully and continue to uphold the Culture of Care agreement.
The surprise vaccinations of Feb. 15 gave the Rice community and administration almost no time to make plans, but we have foresight when it comes to the upcoming booster shots. Let’s be prepared.
Editor’s Note: Thresher editorials are collectively written by the members of the Thresher’s editorial board. Current members include Rishab Ramapriyan, Ivanka Perez, Amy Qin, Nayeli Shad, Ella Feldman, Katelyn Landry, Rynd Morgan, Savannah Kuchar, Ben Baker-Katz, Simona Matovic and Dalia Gulca.
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All members of the Rice community are expected to return in person for the fall and all students who come to campus are expected to be fully vaccinated before the fall semester, President David Leebron announced in an email Friday. Students who receive a medical or religious waiver must continue to test weekly and wear a mask indoors, according to the email.
Fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask indoors on Rice campus, Kevin Kirby, chair of the Crisis Management Advisory Committee, wrote in an email to the Rice community Monday afternoon. This announcement comes three weeks after Rice removed the outdoor mask requirement.
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